Culture

Rail Wonders of Sardinia and Corsica

9 to 15 Oct - Pisa and Corsica, 15 to 24 Oct - Sardinia
Italy, France

It was easy enough to build a standard gauge railway along the wide north-south valley of Sardinia, but the towns in the hills either side of it, or the ports and fishing villages on the east and west coasts could only be reached by narrow-gauge feeder lines. Think of the Douro Valley in Portugal—though here in Sardinia the narrow-gauge lines are longer and still open even though funding for repairs is not always available when needed.

Our tour of Sardinia gives you the chance to travel over every open railway line on the island, both standard and narrow gauge, and includes the two new tramway systems. We expect to see most of the locomotives and railcars on the island, both standard and narrow gauge. 

Corsica, the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean is also called “The island of beauty”; a veritable mountain in the sea and an island of strong character. Just look at the wild and rugged natural environment and the island’s tumultuous history.  We start our tour in Pisa and tour the sights before travelling to Corsica and its narrow-gauge lines.

Highlights

  • Historic cities
  • Great scenery
  • Private vintage train charters
  • Plenty of off-train options

Tour Manager: Angelina  Any questions feel free to email angelina@ptg.co.uk 

Rail map of Sardinia (by David Bowker) – Click to enlarge

Itinerary

Day 1 Tuesday 15 October Our main group flight is at 11.50 from London Gatwick to Olbia Airport. There are also direct flights from Bristol and Manchester. Transfer by road in our luxury bus to Palau, a well-to-do resort with lively streets lined with surfing shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants. Two night stay in Palau. An overland option via Eurostar and ferry (from Genoa) is also available.

Day 2 Wednesday 16 October (B,D) A free day to relax by the sea or to enjoy any of the various natural attractions around Palau such as La Maddalena or Capo d’Orso. Welcome dinner.

Day 3 Thursday 17 October (B) The coast in the vicinity of Palau is famous for its bizarre weather-beaten rocks, some of which we will see from our narrow gauge loco-hauled charter passenger train over the line from Palau to Tempio Pausania. Lunch by the Nuraghe Majori after which we have a guided tour of this, the most important and well-known nuraghe in Gallura. Night in Sassari at the Hotel Vittorio Emanuele located in the heart of the city.

Day 4 Friday 18 October (B) There are options today. Enthusiast option: Visit the Sassari workshop. Free time to ride the Sassari tram system end-to-end and after lunch travel the lines to Porto Torres Marittima and the Sassari to Sorso narrow-gauge branch. Cultural Option: Our bus and a professional guide will take us to Santissima Trinità di Sarcargia, the most important Romanesque site on the island and dating from 1116.  We return to Sassari and have a 2-hour guided city tour. Free time for lunch. Possibility to join the train group for those interested.  In the afternoon the whole group travels by rail along the branch line to Alghero, a pretty city at the seaside. We stay at Hotel Alma di Alghero for two nights.

Day 5 Saturday 19 October (B) A free day to relax by the sea or to visit Alghero old town and its natural attractions such as the Grotta di Nettuno.

Day 6 Sunday 20 October (B) Transfer by road southwards along the spectacular coastal road to Bosa Marina, dominated by an imposing medieval castle, where we board another loco-hauled narrow-gauge charter to Sindia and then by bus to Macomer, a junction with both the FS standard gauge railway and another FdS narrow gauge line to Nuoro, the largest city in the interior of the island. Our train consists of diesel loco type LDe in brown livery with a parcels coach and a beautifully restored “bauchiero” coach dating from 1913 made from varnished wood. The Bosa line only sees public service trains in July and August, and then only on two days a week. The journey starts virtually “on the level” along the coast for a while and then twists and turns for a considerable distance to gain height, still giving splendid views of the coast. Lunch will be in a local restaurant in Macomer. Then we board a charter train train to Nuoro where our bus will take us to Arbatax, stopping to visit the Arbatax Red Rocks before going to the Hotel La Bitta for our overnight stay.

Day 7 Monday 21 October (B,L) During recent years the railway line from Arbatax to Mandas has unfortunately been accessible only on certain sections. In 2018 the line was open only from Arbatax to Gairo and from Sadali to Mandas. We will travel on as much of the line as we can. We a change in government in Italy in 2018 there might now be more investment in Sardinia railways so it is possible the full length will reopen. We will have lunch at Turri and a guided tour in Giara Park, the realm of the last wild horses in Europe. At the end of the day our bus takes us to Cagliari where overnight accommodation for the next three nights is in the 4 star Hotel Regina Margherita. Cagliari has been the capital city of Sardinia for over 2,000 years; today, it has a still-busy, working port and a large student population, grand boulevards, neo-Gothic palaces and art-nouveau cafés.

Day 8 Tuesday 22 October (B,L) After breakfast, our bus takes us to Mandas where we board a diesel loco hauled train.  Unfortunately, in 2018, the railway to Sorgono is again only accessible as far as Laconi. Our shorter train journey means we have more time to enjoy lunch so we have arranged a full rural meal with the typical local dishes at Laconi. We return on our special train to Mandas, take our bus to Dolianova from where we take a service train to Cagliari Montserrato then our bus to the hotel.  Enthusiasts have the option to ride the new tram system on their own.

Day 9 Wednesday 23 October (B,D) There are two railway museums in Cagliari, the FdS and FS, but the FdS (narrow gauge) museum is closed to the public due to serious damage. We therefore start today with a visit to the FS (or standard gauge) museum and afterwards ride the FS lines in the area, using service trains Cagliari – Carbonia – Villamassargia – Iglesias – Cagliari. We arrive back at Cagliari station in time to join the guided city tour. The Culture group in the morning will visit the archaeological site of Nora, 40 kilometres from Cagliari. Nora is an ancient Roman town located on a peninsula and the ruins function as an open-air museum with mosaics and the remains of the amphitheatre and several buildings. We return to Cagliari for lunch and then a guided tour of the old city with a professional local guide. Farewell group dinner at our hotel.

Day 10 Thursday 24 October (B)  We take the FS service train from Cagliari to Golfo Aranci, a four hour ride from the south to the north of the island, then take the bus from Golfo Aranci to Olbia airport for the evening flight back to Gatwick.

 

PISA and CORSICA

Day 1 Wednesday 9 October (D) We leave Gatwick at 13.40 on the Easyjet flight to the Italian city of Pisa. Flights also available from Bristol and Manchester. Overnight in Pisa. Welcome dinner.

Day 2 Thursday 10 October (B) Pisa straddles the River Arno just before it empties into the Tyrrhenian Sea. Although known worldwide for its Leaning Tower, the city of over 90,000 residents contains more than 20 other historic churches, several medieval palaces and various bridges across the River Arno. Much of the city’s architecture was financed from its history as one of the Italian maritime republics. We have a guided tour of the main sites in the morning leaving the afternoon free for your own exploration.

Day 3 Friday 11 October (B)  We travel the short distance from Pisa to Livorno by rail (followed by our coach conveying our luggage) and at Livorno we board a Corsica Ferries ferry at 14.15 for the four hour crossing from Livorno to Bastia. Short transfer to hotel.

Day 4 Saturday 12 October (B) Bastia is the principal port of the island and the city centre is mainly composed of the “Citadelle”, the stronghold, also called Terra-Nova, the Genoese Governor’s Palace, the old port and its popular quarter and the market plaza. In the morning we have a guided tour. The afternoon is free.

Day 5 Sunday 13 October (B) Today we travel by train to Calvi, so covering the upper branch of the Corsica railway. From Ponte Leccia the train goes up a dry and uninhabited valley but soon we have a view of the sea in the distance and before long we are travelling alongside the sea stopping at seaside villages. In Calvi we have a guided tour of the city, built on a promontory in a beautiful bay. We have time for a lunch break before taking our charter bus back to Bastia through the Balagna which is considered to be the most pleasant region of the island.

Day 6 Monday 14 October (B) Today we travel by service train from Bastia to Ajaccio, the Corsican capital city. The train crosses the island, winding round the mountains, crossing some superb bridges and passing through magnificent forest before reaching the tropical atmosphere of the Gulf of Ajaccio, one of the most beautiful locations in Corsica. Leaving Bastia at 08.55 we arrive in Ajaccio in time for lunch and a free afternoon exploring this pretty town.

Day 7 Tuesday 15 October (B) We transfer by coach to Bonifacio stopping for a guided visit of Sartene. Guided tour of Bonifacio old town built on a promontory of white rocks. We board the 17.00 ferry for the one hour crossing of the Bocche di Bonifacio strait to Santa Teresa di Gallura on Sardinia. Coach transfer to our hotel in Palau to join the main Sardinia group.

Flights

It is now possible to fly direct from Manchester or Gatwick, or overland from St Pancras via Genoa.

For Sardinia Only:

15 October: EZY8679 11.50 Gatwick to Olbia (arr 15.20)
24 October: EZY8680 17.00 Olbia to London Gatwick (arr 18.25)

15 October: EZY1919 15.55 Manchester to Olbia (arr 19.40)
24 October: EZY1920 20.15 Olbia to Manchester (arr 22.00)

For Corsica and Sardinia:

9 October: EZY8233 14.20 London Gatwick to Pisa (arr 17.35)
24 October: EZY8680 17.00 Olbia to London Gatwick (arr 18.25)

8 October: EZY1847 07.30 Manchester to Pisa (arr 10.55)
there is no outward flight to Pisa on 9 October so would need to go a day earlier
24 October: EZY1920 20.15 Olbia to Manchester (arr 22.00)

 

Place(s) available

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • 9 day Sardinia holiday from London Gatwick: £1,899
  • Own travel to and from Sardinia: £1,699
  • 7 day Pisa and Corsica holiday from London Gatwick: £1,399
  • Own travel to Pisa and from Ajaccio: £1,199
  • 15 day Pisa, Corsica, Sardinia holiday from London Gatwick: £2,995
  • Own travel to Pisa and back from Olbia: £2,795

Options

  • Single room Supplement (Sardinia only): £330
  • Single room Supplement (Sardinia only): £210
  • Single room Supplement (full tour): £540
  • Overland from St Pancras: POA

Deposit

  • Travelling by air: £500
  • Travelling overland: £1,000
  • Own travel: £300

Price includes

  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Good quality en-suite accommodation
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary; B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
  • Services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted
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